Think of the reader’s eyes as a scanner and the reader’s brain as a search engine. The eyes are the external collector that sends raw data from the printed page to the processing center deep within the reader’s head. That internal search engine makes continual and critical decisions as to what bits of input are more interesting than other bits. What is it that causes certain bits to rise to top of consciousness?
Let’s apply this concept to the characters within a book. Each of an author’s major characters should be tagged with his/her own set of keywords so that, whenever the character reappears in the story, the reader’s brain immediately identifies and remembers who the character is.
A character’s keyword can be as simple as a name, if it is unusual enough. Every Lee Child fan instantly identifies the name Reacher. Every Janet Evanovich fan knows who Ranger is. Grumpy, Sneezy and Dopey are easy to ID.
A character’s keywords can often be speech patterns. An author might choose to tag each major character with some sort of distinctive speaking style. Character A might be droppin’ the ol’ “g” or “d” all the time. Character B could be very polite, yes sir. Be some dude always in a hurry; don’t speak in complete sentences (Character C). Pessimistic Character D harrumphs his way through the day.
The keyword concept can be applied in other ways, too, such as unique hand gestures, a limp, a bowtie, hair color, freckles, pimples, baggy shorts or a runny nose. The list is endless.
An author should observe people constantly and note the variety of shapes and styles that we collectively call humanity. Use these variances to create keywords for key characters that will catch the attention of the reader’s search engine.
Think about it.